By Sageer Kabeer
Nigeria’s oil-rich South-south region has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the Africa’s biggest country, according to a report of a survey unveiled by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja on Thursday.
On the other hand, the northwest region, has the lowest prevalence of the lethal disease.
Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Dr Sani Aliyu, who spoke at the event, said the South-south’s highest HIV prevalence is 3.1 percent, while that of the Northwest is 0.6 percent.
The Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) has revealed that 1.9 million Nigerians live with HIV/ AIDS.
The HIV prevalence is highest among females than males, according to the official survey.
Nigeria’s government, with the support of the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Global Fund to fight HIV, TB and Malaria, and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other partners, had in June 2018 launched the survey to enable it develop strategies towards eradication of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B and C.
The survey directly measured HIV prevalence and viral load suppression, allowing Nigeria to focus on providing services to the areas with the greatest need to control the HIV epidemic.
“It is important that all people living with HIV get into treatment and achieve viral suppression. To halt the epidemic, we need to act now. As a government working with our partners, we have what it takes to support persons who are HIV-positive, to provide treatment, to protect their families and to help people live long and healthy lives,” Dr Aliyu said.
President Buhari said the survey “was designed to provide the data we need to plan adequately and consolidate on the progress towards the elimination of HIV in Nigeria.”
“I am delighted that these more accurate figures indicate that fewer Nigerians are affected by HIV. However, we cannot celebrate yet, as almost a million Nigerians living with HIV are currently not on treatment. Now that we have data that will help us target for impact, I urge all of us not to relent in this fight, but to increase the momentum in a concerted effort to end the epidemic ahead of 2030.
“Today is a critical turning point in Nigeria for a HIV epidemic that has killed many of our countrymen and women. The end of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030 is truly in sight for our country. Let us, therefore, work collectively and push for the last mile,” the president said.